by Stephanie Chambers
I was encouraged recently by an article in Atlanta Magazine1 about how essential oils could be used to replace antibiotics for both humans and farm animals. Antibiotics are becoming less and less effective because bacteria are becoming resistant to them.
One of the research papers2 referred to in the article described how Tea Tree Essential Oil was used to help patients heal faster from a Staphylococcus aureus infection. Apparently the differences in the rates of healing between those using Tea Tree and the controls was striking. But it was only a small investigational study and additional studies are needed.
Another study3 referred to showed that Thyme and Clove essential oils helped heal vaginal infections which would normally have been treated using antibiotics. A 2013 study4 showed that Lemongrass and Thyme oils used in a hand gel possessed good antibacterial activity against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) skin infections.
It should be noted that all Thyme essential oils are not the same. Red Thyme, for example, is extremely pungent and can be quite irritating. It should only be used under the guidance of a trained aromatherapist. Thyme Linalool is much milder and not irritating, but is still known for its antiseptic and disinfectant properties. Thyme Borneol is also known for its germicidal properties, but is milder than Red Thyme, yet not as mild as Thyme Linalool. Thus, Thyme Linalool should be the preferred thyme in most cases.
Hospital infections are generally caused by viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens. These pathogens can enter the body through a variety of ways. For example, the patient can develop a bloodstream infection (BSI), develop pneumonia as a result of a ventilator (VAP), catch a urinary tract infection (UTI), or have their surgical wound become infected (SSI).
According to a 2011 survey by the Centers For Disease Control and Infection about 1 in 25 hospital patients suffer from an infection they developed due to contact with a healthcare environment. In the US alone, in 2011 there were an estimated 722,000 such patients. Of these patients 75,000 died during their hospitalizations because of these infections. To give you a comparison, this is similar to the number of people who died from diabetes in the US in 2013.
So going to hospital can be dangerous in and of itself. This subject is particularly of interest to me as two years ago a close relative of my husbands - a relatively healthy man in his fifties - went to his doctor with what appeared to be an internal hemorrhoid and ended up contracting “necrotizing fasciitis” - commonly called a flesh-eating bacteria. We aren’t sure if he contracted it from his doctor or from the hospital he ended up in. Large parts of his body had to be surgically removed as a result and he almost died. He will spend the rest of his life having to use a colostomy bag.
The prevalent use of antibiotics by doctors, veterinarians and farmers is thought to be contributing to the development of these “superbugs” which are resistant to antibiotics. Obviously the cramped conditions experienced by housed livestock are also not helping to reduce their need for antibiotics. The FDA has requested veterinarians and farmers to voluntarily reduce their use of antibiotics, but there has never been any monitoring of their use and there still isn’t.
On the positive side, pathogens are not expected to become resistant to essential oils because of the complexity of the oils. So further study needs to be urgently conducted to see if essential oils could help either reduce the need for antibiotics by strengthening the patient’s immunity overall and/or by helping heal infections. Let’s hope someday that when we visit friends in hospital, the wards will be filled with the aroma of diffused essential oils, so that they become places where people go to heal and to restore themselves to their full innate vitality.
Disclaimer: The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.